Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



It’s not easy to make a movie whose outcome you know. It can be done: The Day of the Jackal (the first one, not the moronic remake) comes to mind. You know De Gaulle survives, but still you are fascinated and tense. This movie succeeds in that, too. You don’t need to be a sports fan or a follower of horse racing (I am neither). The fact is, if you don’t know the basic story of Secretariat you are either very young or criminally under-informed. There is no question that Secretariat is the most remarkable horse that ever lived. Not only did he win the Triple Crown, something that’s been done only nine times in history, but he set a track record in each race, the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont, all of which still stand today, 37 years later. (The Preakness record is unofficial because … if you can believe this … the timer broke down. I have a mental image of the little timer robot at the finish line, goofing off, twiddling its cybernetic thumbs, and suddenly the horse comes thundering by. “Hang on! You weren’t suppose to be here for another seven seconds!” So he just gives up.) He won at Belmont by 31 lengths. Horses with broken legs don’t usually finish that far behind. Of course there were only four horses in the field. Everybody else had given up and gone home. No one else had the slightest chance, and they knew it. So this is not an underdog story (though they try to jazz it up by making the owner an underdog, which is not really true). Secretariat was never an underdog. He was simply magnificent. As the track announcer at Belmont put it, he was a tremendous machine. He was huge. His heart turned out to be two and a half times the size of a normal horse’s. At Belmont he started out slow, as was his habit, and turned in a faster time for every quarter mile. In other words, at the end of 1½ miles he was still accelerating! The only way to make a movie about such a phenomenon is to simply celebrate it, with wonderful photography and great editing, and this movie does that. You are almost on the horse—something I would never do in real life, which is one of the reasons I love to go to the movies.